The history of essential oils is long and interesting.
Like gold, essential oils have been around for thousands of years. And like gold, essential oils experience occasions when they appear to draw little interest or are virtually unknown. But, also like gold, the interest in essential oils surges when people are looking for reliability and value regarding their health.
Consider a few highlights of the history of essential oils. . .
The ancient Egyptians were known to use oils, herbs, and aromatic plants for medicinal purposes. A scroll dating back to 1500 B.C. reveals hundreds of remedies using oils. And when King Tut's tomb was opened in 1922, 50 alabaster jars for holding oils were discovered. The valued oils were no longer present because they were stolen by robbers who left the gold of the tomb behind.
The Bible describes how a plague was stopped with an offering of incense, and how the temple was prepared with aromatic oils. In the New Testament we learn that the Christ child was given frankincense and myrrh, and later in His ministry was anointed with very costly spikenard.
The scriptures contain a rich history involving biblical oils.
The Arabians, around 500 B.C., developed a thriving frankincense trade. Demand was so great that the trade route was known as the “Frankincense Trail.” Much later, the Arabian physician Avicenna improved the distillation process for essential oils and used them extensively in his medical practice.
The Greeks and Romans were also known to use essential oils. It is believed that Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” halted a devastating plague in Athens with aromatics. An ancient Greek Physician, Dioscorides, wrote a book describing methods still used by aromatherapists today. The Romans used to purify public buildings by diffusing essential oils, and also used them in their steam baths to maintain good health.
A number of notable historical figures are known to have a fondness for essential oils. Queen Hatshepsut, Alexander the Great, and Napolean all sought to obtain and use essential oils.
Essential oils were also used by early American colonists.
In the late 1800s laboratories began to isolate the active elements of natural remedies and started to reproduce them synthetically. By the early 1900s the public became impressed by the synthetic manufacture of drugs, and pharmaceutical companies became major sponsors of medical schools.
This explains the huge dominance of pharmaceuticals in our own day. And why essential oils were largely forgotten.
But things of value have a way of coming back. And for this reason the history of essential oils continues.
Essential oils made their modern comeback in France. In 1910 Dr. Rene-Maurice Gattefosse was covered by burning substances as a result of an explosion in his laboratory. Immediately he put his hands in a lavender rinse, and the gangrenous gasification of the tissue stopped and healing began.
This experience led Dr. Gattefosse to focus his research on the healing power of essential oils.
Shortly thereafter, essential oils began to be used during World War I, due to their anti-bacterial and wound healing properties.
Another French doctor, Jean Valnet, used essential oils to treat battlefield injuries in World War II. Since that time, one of Dr. Valnet's students, Jean Lapraz, discovered that microbes could not survive in the presence of certain essential oils.
In the middle 1980s research began that led to the recovery of essential oils in the United States.
Today, the role that essential oils may play in combating present-day diseases is being studied at a growing rate.
Hospitals and clinics are increasingly using aromatics.
And one doctor, Dr. Alan Hirsch, has even said that the day will come when essential oils will be in the medicine cabinet of every home.
This trend in the recent history of essential oils shows that those things that are of value are sure to attract attention, even after being ignored for a long time. It's true for gold, and it's true for essential oils.